September is not even over and you may already be out of creative lunch ideas for your kids. Or maybe your kids are saying "peanut butter and jelly, AGAIN?"
In the race to be SuperMom, all of our current knowledge is not helping. Will you get the evil eye at the next PTA meeting if you don't have BPA-free plastics only? Will you continue add to landfills with your flagrant excessive use of ziploc bags? Will you continue to poison little Sally & Johnny with high-fructose corn syrup? Organic or conventional fruits and veggies? Processed or unprocessed? HELLLPPP!!!
Here are some ideas that might help you to think out of the box or expand your repertoire.
1.Sandwich Thins/Deli Thins-Made by Arnold, Orowheat, Pepperidge Farm
These are round breads/buns, small enough for little bellies, only 100 calories, no high-fructose corn syrup and NO CRUST for your crust-phobics. I love these.
2. Muffin tins are your friend. If you're making pasta for dinner save some of the cooked pasta and sauce. Combine the sauce and pasta. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray or oil. Pack the muffin tin with scoops of your pasta (sneak in some veggies) and top with cheese. Bake at 350 until bubbly (about 10 minutes). Put these in the lunch box, they will be delicious at room temperature.
3. Do the same thing using eggs, leftover veggies and cheese and make mini-frittatas. Use cupcake papers in the muffin tins for these.
4. I recently used these little pie crusts and made mini-quiches using all sorts of leftovers: sun-dried tomatoes, salami, feta cheese, veggies, etc. I used the following egg custard recipe to make 12 mini-tarts:
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 t pepper
Then I pre-baked the shells at 375 F for 15 minutes. I let the shells cool, added my ingredients and poured the egg custard into the shells. I lowered the oven to 350F and baked until the eggs were set, about 20 minutes.
These are great at room temp too. And what kid doesn't want their own "pie"?!
5. Finger foods or appetizers. Kids will eat almost anything if it comes with a "dip", skewer or is individually sized. We're kickin' it old school lately with deviled eggs. If you your kids like egg salad, try deviled eggs. When I pack these in a lunch, my kids are swarmed by other kids and teachers saying "oooh, deviled eggs!" Also cucumbers, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, snow peas with salad dressing on the side.
6. Instead of the same old sandwich, how about sending tuna salad with crackers on the side. They can then dip it themselves. Or make mini-sandwiches on the crackers instead of bread to compete with their Lunch-ables schoolmates. Or make a wrap using tortillas, lavash or flatbreads.
7. Behold, the thermos. Leftovers are your friend. Soup is your savior. A thermos can be filled with last nights stew or pasta, soups, mac and cheese, even mashed potatoes and gravy. I fill the thermos with hot water while I'm heating up the soup. Empty thermos and add your hot food. My kids report that everything is still warm by lunchtime too.
8. Who says lunch=sandwich? Skip the sandwich. Today I packed my munchkin a container of hummus with carrot sticks and pita chips, grape tomatoes, cheese and a plum and yogurt--plenty of food without a sandwich.
9. Get them involved in the planning. If your little gourmand is complaining about their lunch, have them plan the menu. Write out what will be packed for the week so they know what's coming. They are less likely to complain if they have chosen it. Take them grocery shopping to help select their favorite fruits, bread, snack, etc.
10. Try new things. They may refuse to eat 90% of them but they just might find something new to love. Have you tried: almonds & dried cranberries mixed together; edamame; frozen grapes; flavored mini-rice cakes; a banana sliced down the middle (but not all the way) with peanut butter spread inside; mini Baby Bel wrapped cheese rounds; cream cheese and jelly on a mini-bagel; popcorn; dried fruits; yogurt smoothies, etc.
Please add on your inspired ideas in the comments!
Coming next: A shopping list of convenience foods without high fructose corn syrup...